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Ski & Snowboard Buying Guide

Planning on traveling to a new or favorite ski/snowboard destination this season? Finding the correct ski or snowboard bag is a must for skiers and snowboards whether you are relaxing on groomed runs or playing in the backcountry powder!

Finding the Right Ski/Snowboard Pack for you:

Important questions to consider while you are searching for a snowpack include, where are you going and how long will you be gone? By determining the length of your trip and the amount of gear you need to carry, you will be better able to find the right size pack for your journey.

Pack volume is typically measured in liters (L). Use the following cheat sheet to determine how many Liters you need to account for in your bag.

  • 10-20L (lift-served side country, heli or cat accessed riding)
  • 20-35L (longer day tours)
  • 35-55L (hut touring or overnight trips)
  • 60-70L (longer mountaineering trips that require a tent, cooking and glacier travel gear)

How does a Backcountry Backpack differ from a Hiking Backpack?

Backcountry packs differ from traditional hiking packs across multiple categories:

  • Separate Storage of Avalanche Safety Gear - Backcountry backpacks will typically have a separate compartment for your avalanche gear which will provide easy access if you ever find yourself in an avalanche situation. It is important to note that avalanche safety gear should be stored inside the backpack, not strapped to the outside, in a “wet” compartment that is vented and has pockets for a probe and shovel.
  • Ski/Snowboard Carry - Ski/Snowboard carry on your backpack is a must-have when going into the backcountry. A strap carrying system allows you to hike while leaving your hands free to use ski poles and access your hydration packs or water bottles.

Types of Ski Carry Systems:

Diagonal Ski Backpack A-Frame Ski Backpack Vertical Ski Backpack

Skis together vertically or at an angle on the back of the pack.

Skis strapped separately to the sides of the pack usually connected at the tips by a secured strap.

Skis strapped together bases touching secured straight down the middle of your pack.

Types of Snowboard Carry Systems:

Vertical Snowboard Backpack Horizontal Snowboard Backpack

Board positioned straight up and down on the back of the backpack.

Board positioned Sideways across the backpack/back.

Note: The style in which you choose to carry your gear is a personal preference. While an A-frame carry may be more balanced, be careful to avoid possible snagging on branches, bushes, brush or rocks when clearances are tight, especially if you have your boots in the bindings. The same can be said about how you choose to tote your snowboard. Diagonal carry systems can sometimes drag your ski tails on steep descents. To avoid situations like these, make sure your straps from your pack are not hanging low.

How Your Pack Should Fit

The fit of your pack is easily the single most important aspect to consider when purchasing a ski/snowboard backpack. Consider also the layers and outerwear you'll be wearing when using this backpack. Some backpacks come in different lengths.

A good rule of thumb is to remember that the length of your backpack should also match the length of your torso to ensure the most comfortable fit. (Refer to the manufacturer's fit chart to determine which length is best for you). When you try on a pack, put some weight inside the bag to simulate a typical or heavy load, and then see if the straps and waist belt will adjust to fit your body properly.

Other Features

Hydration Compatibility Backpack Helmet Carrier Backpack Compression Straps Backpack
Hydration Compatibility
Helmet Carry
Compression Straps

If you plan to carry a hydration pack (common in brands like CamelBak), check for a separate compartment to protect the bladder and an exit port for the hose.

An elastic flap or pouch that secures your helmet while you're not wearing it and keeps it from bouncing or hitting your ski or snowboard gear

These side straps have the capability to be tightened or loosened to reduce the bulk of a pack for lighter travel days.

Back, Top, or Side Access Backpack Ice Axe Carrier Backpack
Back, Top or Side Access
Ice Axe Carry

Having a way to access items at the bottom of your pack without unloading all of the contents can be a huge time and energy saver. Great items to keep here are sunglasses, goggles, nose tissues, bandanas and extra gloves/clothing layers.

A loop or loops at the front bottom of the pack along with easy-fasten tabs. These are essential for ski mountaineering and trips.

To browse our entire selection of Ski and Snowboard Gear click here!